In the 1980s movie “Network” the most memorable scene is the tired old TV anchor yelling at the world from his New York apartment window, “I’m mad as hell and can’t take it anymore!”
Across the country millions of Americans are hitting the wall in similar frustration. What’s driving them nuts? The inability of most of our fellow citizens to defend themselves in the culture wars. For more than two decades our free speech has been stifled by a blanket of political correctness that has smothered civil discourse. We are in a war, for goodness sake, and can’t even speak the truth about our enemies.
We are fighting Muslim Islamofascists and yet seem to be restrained by a societal-imposed muzzle that forbids us to refer to Islam as anything other than a “religion of peace” or of terrorists as “militants” or, as Reuters News Service prefers, “freedom fighters.” What if we tried to fight World War II by referring to our Nazi enemies as “political activists from Northern Europe”? Ready to lean out of that window yet?
Add to the gross abridgement of free speech the politically correct impose on us, the absolute immorality of “moral equivalence” and “multiculturalism” and we have a real mental quagmire. Think it’s hard to get out of Iraq? How hard is it to get to solid ground when all ideas, people, actions, behaviors and thoughts have equal value? How do you exercise good judgment when you are told that it’s bad to judge? We can have another column on who to blame for this mess, but that’s for later. Our goal right now it to turn things around and think straight. So here’s a beginning checklist for taking up mental arms in the culture wars.
- Arm yourself with knowledge. Most of what you here is rumor, opinion and innuendo. Learn the truth. As John Adams said, “facts are stubborn things,” and if you know them you will be able to defend your position, quietly and with civility. Only the ignorant scream in debate.
- Arm yourself with conviction. Conviction flows from confidence; confidence from knowledge. Confidence means that you are comfortable with your knowledge, position, and analysis. It means that you can conduct yourself in a proper, well-mannered way with supreme confidence and never have to back down.
- Arm yourself with courage. This can be a tough one. Some of us have ample physical courage but lack moral courage. Moral courage means that you are willing to face your accusers, your detractors, and do the right thing. It means that you can take the road less traveled rather than follow the herd. It means being able to state a firmly held position in the face of anger and dissention. It is the most difficult of all courage to grasp and hold. But will yield the greater rewards for gaining it.
- Arm yourself with perseverance. Little of value is accomplished hastily or with ease. What is the most valuable thing you’ve ever done? Written a book or a song? Built a building or a bridge? Raised a child? Whatever worthwhile thing you have done has taken time and required you to be steadfast. When the little voice inside your head says, “enough, quit now,” perseverance is what enables you to stay the course. When things looked darkest for President Ronald Reagan he counseled his countrymen to “stay the course.” We responded and triumphed over communism. But we must stay on guard for as he also said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”
- Arm yourself with patriotism. Samuel Johnson’s quote about patriotism being the “last refuge of a scoundrel” was not a knock on patriotism but on the gross immorality of scoundrels who would willingly corrupt such a fine virtue. Learn what true patriotism is from the Founding Fathers. Jefferson said that “democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.” Patrick Henry: “But as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Wave the flag when appropriate and know what makes it fly high.
- Arm yourself with tradition. Part of knowledge, of being a good American, is to be aware of the things that make this country unique and great. Soldiers guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, marching in a very special manner. The American flag is folded in a triangle. Why? We stand at the seventh inning of baseball games. How did this come about? Do you think it would happen today? Learn America’s traditions, the small things and the major actions. You will feel better about yourself and your country.
- Arm yourself with history. Unlike what many of us may think, history does not begin with our first cognitive memory. Knowing history, as George Santayana famously said, means that we are not “doomed to repeat it.” History is the story of people, and as Stephen Ambrose noted, “what could be more interesting?” It is not places, names, and dates, but great battles, incredible courage, fortitude to persevere for the right, and triumph of good over evil. Not always, but we have to learn how it was done then so that we can do what we must do now.
- Arm yourself with God. Presidents say “God bless the United States of America” when they finish major presentations. Strong men and women look to a Presence greater than themselves when they seek counsel. Our enemies either deny God or pervert his message to something hideous and destructive. Look for comfort and guidance from the source of all power in the universe. Be proud that you believe.